Canterbury, New ZealandCanterbury Regional Information

Canterbury | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

Coastal and mountain experiences combine to make Canterbury a place where there's something for every traveller. Here you'll find many worlds within one region.

Canterbury Overview

Canterbury, New Zealand
Canterbury, New Zealand

The Canterbury region includes a large central portion of the East Coast of the South Island, centred around the city of Christchurch.

From the silvery beaches of the East Coast to the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps, the Canterbury landscape is impossible to ignore. Big scenery is the order of the day—huge panoramas of ocean or mountains, great sweeps of pastureland, massive amounts of sky. It's easy to be awestruck—but if you want to be totally flabbergasted, take a hot air balloon ride. The experience of floating across the Canterbury Plains with the majesty of the Southern Alps behind you will ingrain itself on your memory forever.

The highest point of the region is the highest point of New Zealand. The spectacular Aoraki/Mount Cook stands at 3,754 metres (Aoraki is Maori for Cloud Piercer). At the other end of the scale, the submarine trenches off the coast of Kaikoura are thousands of metres deep, providing an ideal environment for the whales, dolphins and seals that live there permanently.

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Canterbury Highlights

Two hours north of Christchurch is Kaikoura, where the mountains meet the sea. Fur seals lounge on rocks just metres from the shore, dusky and Hector's dolphins frolic in the sea within sight of town, while only a few kilometres further out, giant sperm whales haunt the depths. The sperm whale can be seen all year round off Kaikoura and is the third largest whale in the world, only beaten by the blue and fin whales.

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Hanmer Springs foresty, Canterbury, New Zealand
Hanmer Springs, Canterbury
Photographer: Hiroshi Nameda

Not far from Kaikoura is the scenic alpine and thermal village of Hanmer Springs. Since 1859 this spa town has attracted visitors seeking to relax, unwind and ease their aches and pains in the soothing mineral waters. There is a variety of outdoor activities on offer in Hanmer Springs, including skiing, mountain biking, forest walks, river rafting and bungy jumping. While just north of Christchurch, take time out to discover the wine makers of the beautiful Waipara Valley.

Inland from Christchurch on the Great Alpine Highway, State Highway 73, lie the magnificent Southern Alps—only an hour from the Christchurch. The villages of Springfield and Arthur's Pass make ideal bases for all kinds of activities—visit the information centres for bookings and more information. You can also experience the TranzAlpine—one of the world's most spectacular train journeys that takes you from Christchurch to Greymouth.

Step back into New Zealand's past in Akaroa, Canterbury's oldest village. You'll hear about Maori, whaling, French and British history. Natural history is another topic to explore—in summer you might even get the chance to swim with the world's rarest dolphin, the Hector's dolphin.

South of Christchurch lie the Ashburton and Timaru districts. Ashburton district is home to all kinds of exciting activities like skiing, hot air ballooning and salmon fishing. Timaru district features many attractive towns, rolling green hills, lush pasture and braided rivers.

Main Centres in Canterbury

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Hanmer Springs foresty, Canterbury, New Zealand
Road to Mt Cook, Canterbury
Photographer: David Wall
  • Christchurch - the largest city in the South Island
  • Kaikoura - translated from Maori means 'a place for eating crayfish'
  • Hanmer Springs - a peaceful alpine village
  • Timaru - features significant Maori rock art collections
  • Lake Tekapo - beautiful lakeside town
  • Methven - gateway to Mount Hutt
  • Akaroa - attractive village with a French history
  • Darfield - gateway to the scenic attractions of the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers
  • Springfield - gateway to the Southern Alps and the diverse journey through the Great Alpine Highway 73

Useful Canterbury Links

To help plan your Canterbury holiday choose from the main categories below:

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Canterbury Region Information

Canterbury Tourism Operators


Mainstay New Zealand Hotels Rent a Dent Motel Association of New Zealand Choice Hotels Ski New Zealand
Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry


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